This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Recently, one of my Facebook acquaintances posted a photo of her driveway, where her not-quite-3-year-old daughter had just written her name in sidewalk chalk (in the caption she'd mentioned that she had set a goal that her daughter would learn to write her name before she turned 3).
A few days later she posted a picture of her daughter in a beautiful homemade Halloween costume – complete with handmade tutu and ladybug wings.
And then there are the regular pictures of the five-course meals she whips up – featuring things like crab-stuffed Portobello mushrooms, shrimp ceviche and mojito cupcakes.
With each update I find myself feeling both impressed and deflated.
Lily, who turned 3 last month, gets distracted and frustrated any time I try to get her to create recognizable letters, shapes or pictures. And her name is just four letters long! And most of the letters are just straight lines! (My friend's daughter's name is considerably longer, with more complicated letters).
Between the two girls, housework, cooking, freelancing and my lack of sewing skills, there will be no hand-crafted Halloween costumes. Lily will wear a store-bought princess outfit, and she's decided 18-month-old Jovie will be a bunny (note to self, shop for bunny costume).
And while I'm not a complete failure in the kitchen, the typical meals I make would be better suited for an Old Country Buffet than a five-star restaurant.
With this always-open window into the lives of others, Facebook often leaves me feeling like a domestic dud.
And I'm not alone.
A study released in August examined how Facebook affected how users felt moment-to-moment, and how it affected their overall satisfaction with life. Researchers found that the more participants used Facebook, the worse they felt about their lives.
Another study conducted by two German universities found similar results.
"We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry," researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin's Humboldt University told Reuters in January.
And headlines about the ubiquitous social network are often bleak:
"Is Facebook making us lonely" The Atlantic asked in May 2012. And in January of this year, Time wrote, "Why Facebook makes you feel bad about yourself."
I didn't need to read that last one. I know why Facebook makes me feel bad about myself: I'm not eating gelato in Rome like my single "friends" or sharing tales of my kids' amazing feats like my mom "friends" or posting updates about my latest career successes like my working "friends."
My Facebook wall is a collage of domestic unrest and dishevelment. Lily throwing a tantrum on the garage floor. A story about my dog wolfing down two sticks of butter from the kitchen counter and then vomiting all over our living room carpet. Jovie's face covered in frosting from a chocolate doughnut.
Logically, I know that my life isn't all outbursts and puke. While they probably won't be vying for admission to an Ivy League university at age 12, the girls are smart, sweet and silly. Martha Stewart would not be impressed by culinary prowess, but my husband and kids seem to like it just fine.
When I close my laptop and leave my smartphone behind, I think I'm more satisfied with my life. It's when I start that obsessive scrolling that my anxiety levels rise.
I don't think this is all bad though.
As a new parent you often wonder about when your kids will hit certain milestones – you wonder about when it's time to push them toward new skills and when to hold back. If it weren't for my friend's posting that picture of her daughter's name, I might not have considered that Lily could start learning to write. And when various other moms have had to tackle potty training, it's been a blessing to support each other and get tried-and-true tips.
Another one of my friends posted a picture of her 3-year-old daughter in the ER right after she got stitches for a tumble off the bed – having gone through a similar ordeal myself earlier this year, I immediately posted a note trying to cheer her up and remind her I'd been there.
Motherhood can be very insular and isolating. No one thanks you for doing the dishes or ensuring a plentiful supply of clean socks. There's no day-to-day reassurance that your progeny will not grow up requiring a lifetime of therapy for all the times you yelled at them to stop yelling at you. You constantly worry about your kids – How did that eye get swollen? Is it normal that she hasn't shown preference for one hand or the other? Is she too big or too small?
It's no wonder that we turn to social media for reassurance and support –- and yes, sometimes to brag a little because you don't always get the praise that you deserve.
So instead of looking at all those updates my friend posts about her amazing feats of motherhood as an attack on my own ineptitude, I should read between the lines and recognize a kindred spirit.
Like me, she's just another weary mom in search of a little cheerleading.
And maybe on the days I don't feel like waving my pompoms, well, I just won't look at Facebook.